On his Saturday show Your Money, CNN host Ali Velshi tried to pin the blame for the debt ceiling standoff on one man – the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist. "Are you the reason that we don't have a debt ceiling increase right now?" he boldly asked his guest.
Velshi was referring to Norquist's pledge that entails elected officials who sign it promising to oppose increases in taxes. Velshi termed the pledge one of "remarkable inflexibility." He questioned outright the viability of the pledge. "Why is preserving the inability to increase taxes more important than the overall health of the economy and the danger that it's putting us into right now?" he asked.
The host interrupted his guest multiple times, framing the debate around his own terms and even suggesting that certain higher taxes are "fair." When Norquist tried to argue that the current debt situation is due to President Obama, Velshi abruptly dismissed the point as "an unreasonable position."
"A lot of people are wondering if it's appropriate that you hold so much power in the Republican Party," the CNN host asked Norquist, throwing a cheap shot his way. He made sure to get another low blow in at the interview's end.
"Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, a name that doesn't entirely represent what he's doing," Velshi growled.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on July 16 at 1:08 p.m. EDT is as follows:
ALI VELSHI: Grover, your lobbying group has gotten more than 230 House Republicans and nearly 40 GOP senators to sign a pledge never to support an increase in taxes. And you warn those who break your pledge will pay a political price. Are you the reason that we don't have a debt ceiling increase right now?
GROVER NORQUIST, president, Americans for Tax Reform: Our friend, President Obama, has said he won't try and solve the problem he created with his spending unless people give him more money.
VELSHI: Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. He created with his spending? You didn't just suggest that our budget problem is because of President Obama, did you, Grover?
VELSHI: Let's – let's have a real conversation here, Grover.
VELSHI: Are we in this debt situation – (Crosstalk) – because of the Obama administration, Grover?
VELSHI: OK. We're going to pass by that question, because that's an unreasonable position.
VELSHI: Why is preserving the inability to increase taxes more important than the overall health of the economy and the danger that it's putting us into right now?
VELSHI: OK, Grover, hold on right there because I want to ask you whether or not there are any taxes in this country that you need to see increased to make things a little more fair.
VELSHI: Grover, you've gotten so many Republicans in Congress to sign a pledge to never raise taxes. A lot of people are wondering if it's appropriate that you hold so much power in the Republican Party. You've never been elected to public office. But you certainly are influential. What's the consequence, if somebody who has signed one of those pledges, one of those pledges of remarkable inflexibility that you forced them to sign, goes against you?
VELSHI: Is it not more important, Grover, that people can trust their elected officials to make the right decisions in their interest than to be loyal to Grover Norquist so that they get reelected again?
NORQUIST: OK, are you not listening?
VELSHI: I'm listening very clearly.
NORQUIST: The pledge is not to me. The pledge is to their constituents.
VELSHI: I'm waiting for you to tell me why what you do makes America better.
VELSHI: I'll give you this, Grover. You were into this long before it was majority opinion. But right now, you've seen the Quinnipiac poll. You've seen the Gallup poll that says most Republicans – not most Americans – most Republicans agree with the fact that there need to be spending cuts and some corresponding tax increases. Do you think that there is not a tax in America on the wealthy or on corporations that needs to be increased? There's just no tax anywhere that you think needs to be increased?
VELSHI: And I'll save -- I'll save the viewers, by the way, from going to your Web site. The pledge reads this, "I, the undersigned, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of undersigned and all the people of this state that I will oppose and vote against all efforts to increase taxes."
VELSHI: And are you OK with the fact that the pledge may cost Americans when this debt ceiling is not increased? It will cost Americans a lot of money when it's not increased.
NORQUIST: I hope that President Obama will not stick to his ideological left-wing guns and demand more spending and tax increases, that he will come to the table and actually put something in writing, which he hasn't done yet. There is no Obama plan in writing –
NORQUIST: – that he's negotiating from.
VELSHI: Grover, it is remarkable – remarkable to hear you suggesting that President Obama does not stick to his ideological guns when your entire –
NORQUIST: I hope he won't.
VELSHI: – existence is about sticking to your ideological guns. Grover Norquist, thanks for coming on the show. Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, a name that doesn't entirely represent what he's doing.